Manchester, UK: Powering Industry 4.0

Rachel Eyre, Head of Business Development – Advanced Manufacturing & Low Carbon on why Manchester is a pioneering manufacturing region with Industry 4.0

Manchester was the birthplace of the first industrial revolution and is renowned for its history in invention. Well known as the place where Sir Henry Royce met Charles Rolls, where the world’s first stored computer ran its first programme and as the home of Graphene, the city has made a major contribution to innovation and continues to draw from its rich industrial heritage, to manufacture for the future and power industry 4.0.

This heritage combined with the city-region's accelerated carbon neutral target of 2038 – 12 years ahead of the national target – has created a hub for leading research institutes, ambitious start-ups, and universities on the forefront of developing new technologies in robotics and AI.

Manchester, future-proofing the UK’s manufacturing output 

Manchester has addressed three critical aspects to driving manufacturing innovation: The meeting of minds via collaboration and partnership, creating innovation space that is fit for enabling R&D from concept through to commercialisation and by working on the delivery of a diverse and inclusive talent pipeline.

The Advanced Machinery & Productivity Institute (AMPI), based in Rochdale, Greater Manchester has set about achieving all of these goals to future proof the UK’s manufacturing sector. This includes quadrupling the size of the UK’s Advanced Machinery sector and creating 20,000 jobs, bringing the industry to the same level as Switzerland.

The Institute will also address the scarcity of robotics in UK industry, stimulating growth in the UK’s industrial robotics manufacturing output to £1billion per annum. Born out of an in-depth review into the state of the nation’s Advanced Machinery sector, the challenges facing the industry highlighted the absence of a comprehensive manufacturing supply chain undertaking research or modern technology adoption, to increase the performance of the UK in the international market. Led by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL),this partnership will provide unique advantages to all participants to address these issues and support projects via world-class metrology.

This important aspect of manufacturing –accurate measurement for efficiency and reliable outputs, will allow faster product development built on strong research. Due to open late 2022, The £16m, all-electric North of England Robotics Innovation Centre (NERIC) based at Salford University, is another commitment to industry collaboration, innovation and skills. Available specifically for businesses based in Greater Manchester, NERIC will provide tech consultants to deliver 121 support, looking at the full feasibility of new systems and to actively troubleshoot problems for a fast, yet efficient commercial pipeline.

As well as robotics, the city has capabilities in Additive Manufacturing; and the Print City Network programme at Manchester Metropolitan University provides SMEs with the latest digital technology and academic expertise to support them to develop new products within their business or adopt new digital workflows. 

Advanced Materials – a whole new world

The Department for International Trade (DIT) has officially identified Manchester as an ideal location to invest in the global Lightweight Structures opportunity, due to its advanced materials expertise and perfect location at the heart of two transport clusters.

Uniting the city-region's strengths in Advanced Machinery and Advanced Materials generates a powerful formula as demonstrated by The University of Manchester, which is home to National Graphene Institute (NGI), the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC) and The Manchester Robotics and AI Centre, boasting a world leading reputation for research in this area. Focus areas range from integrating robotics and AI research, nuclear robotics to trustworthy and verifiable autonomous systems to human-robot interaction for social and healthcare. Most recently the University has taken robotics to a whole new world –literally, as their pioneering scientists and engineers look to build a future in space through innovation in advanced materials and autonomous systems -including revolutionary concepts in space habitats and the trustworthy robots to help build them.

University spin-out CEO and R&D project leader, Dr Vivek Koncherry says: “If you want to implement nanomaterials -or indeed the next generation of advanced materials - into space application you will also need automation. In Manchester, everything comes together – you have expertise in both advanced materials and automated systems. The skilled people we need to work with are based in the same place, which creates a unique proposition.”

A huge amount of potential is also held at The Henry Royce Institute, headquartered at The University of Manchester, which, as of November 2022, has benefitted from £94m from national government to fund further research in advanced materials research and development.

This concentration of industry and academic excellence combined with investment into next generation talent with initiatives such as the Manufacturing Innovations Activities Hub –a £4m industrialisation and electrification training centre –makes the city-region a hotspot for future leaders in manufacturing and technology.

Established in 1997, MIDAS, is the award-winning Inward Investment promotion agency for Greater Manchester, here to support national and international firms of all sizes that wish to
relocate or expand in the city-region.

Whether you require help with finding manufacturing space, talent, or new connections in Greater Manchester, Find more about how your business can power Industry 4.0 solutions in Manchester, here.

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